|Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, PC (Reviewed)
|June 28, 2022
Fobia is a survival horror game developed by Pulsatrix Studios and published by Maximum Games. Fobia has clear inspiration from both the Silent Hill series and Resident Evil while taking some Lovecraftian inspiration. The game received numerous awards including Best Brazillian Game from the BGA, a recipient of the EPIC MegaGrants, and multiple awards from SBGames.
Spiritual Content: Fobia’s horror is based on science fiction rather than the occult. However, there is a supposed cult that worships the supernatural alien artifacts and powers. Some religious symbology is present but nothing blatant or that is prevalent.
Violence: Violence is ever present in Fobia. However, the combat itself is not overly violent. While guns are used on monsters to protect the player, the only blood is in small amounts when a monster is shot and then they denigrate without leaving behind a corpse. The main brunt of objectionable violence is environmental gore. There are severed limbs present along with blood smeared on various surfaces. Additionally, some of the material that is growing in the hotel looks like flesh. Monsters have exaggerated proportions with gaping holes in their chests, exposing their hearts as their weak spot. Monsters tend to sometimes resemble heavily mutilated and mutated humans as well.
Sexual Content: There are art deco topless female statues in the hotel which have some suggestive posing.
Drugs and alcohol: Alcohol is present; however, it is only used in a medical sense for cleaning wounds. Additionally, some implied bottles of alcohol are part of the environment in the hotel but are only for decoration.
Language and Crude Humor: The game contains numerous instances of strong language including frequent use of F*** and S*** along with misusing the Lord’s name.
Fobia has an ESRB rating of M for Mature and a PEGI rating of 18
Fobia has the player take on the role of a beginning investigative journalist, Roberto Lopes. Roberto was contacted by a local citizen of a mysterious area known as Treze Trilhas. Strange happenings, such as people disappearing, have been occurring in the area for many years; Roberto soon realizes that the area was being afflicted by otherworldly entities. One such entity is a small girl wearing a gas mask who looks like she would fit in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The game involves numerous black-out sequences and reality-bending experiences that allow Roberto to see into other realities. It also uncovers the base of the St. Dinfna Hotel and the reason why the town is afflicted with the beasts from beyond.
The game has a stronger focus on puzzle solving along with light exploration as opposed to Resident Evil or Silent Hill. In many ways, the game feels more like a walking sim puzzle game rather than a true survival horror game. It lacks any of the connection a player feels with having to carefully judge their actions and conserve their resources like they would in other titles in the genre. Additionally, while exploration and puzzle solving are enjoyable, the mechanics of combat were disappointing. Boss fights could be very glitchy, especially one involving a spider-like creature that was clearly meant to jump from the floor to the ceiling, but would laggingly glitch and warp to the floor and ceiling, sometimes not even registering damage inflicted. Enemies tend to move too fast as well compared to the player’s movement speed and firing speed.
The soundtrack and atmospheric sounds of Fobia masterfully envelope the experience and add multiple layers of immersion. The haunting sounds of past conversations mixed in with static and the sounds emitted from the monstrous beings plaguing the town all blend and create a haunting experience. The voice acting, however, is atrocious and lacking in every way. While some performances were passable, the main character’s voice acting is poor both in the native Portuguese language dub and the English dub. The soundtrack is composed of classical-style music as well as a couple of tracks with electronic or dubstep sounds.
Graphically, Fobia is wonderful. The textures of the game all looked exceptionally high quality and very few seemed remotely grainy or blurry. Liquid textures were rather good but had some room for improvement when it came to blood and water. The character models were a mixed bag, as the monsters and enemies were designed well but the one NPC you talk to at the start of the game seemed rather unrefined, and the player character, when shown in cutscenes, is not polished either. The dynamic lighting in the game was realistic and overall did well establishing the atmosphere. The environments were all detailed and captured the art deco look of an old hotel from the 50s or 60s.
The horror content in the game is rather avant-garde in nature which could appeal to fans of more artistic renditions of horror. However, the overall horror of the game felt like nothing more than basic jumpscares and annoying visual effects, rather than giving the player a sense of urgency or being in a survival situation. Often the game felt like it could not decide if it wanted to be an atmospheric puzzle game or a walking sim, as most of the game just involved solving puzzles or finding things to help you progress with minimal combat. Inventory management was frustrating; often puzzles required many pieces and much of the time the puzzle had to be assembled in your inventory. The overall emphasis on puzzles felt as if it had no real substance in contributing meaningfully to the story progression. Unlike other games in the genre, the notes did not offer the same emphasis as, for example, the highly memorable ones in the original Resident Evil.
Overall, Fobia failed to capture the spirit of the greats of the survival horror genre. The combat was glitchy and unwieldy, oftentimes leaving the player feeling frustrated. The puzzles in the game were clever but felt uninspired and uninteresting. The voice acting also was disappointing. The main draw of the game was its atmosphere along with the soundtrack but without the foundation of good gameplay, it just felt like an unfortunate case of squandered potential.
The Bottom Line
Fobia has the right ingredients for a successful game but didn’t use them. It has a great atmosphere and soundtrack but without good gameplay, it falls apart.